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reprinted from 
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 




In the closing scenes of the eventful campaign of 1777, 
the encampment of the Continental army near the old 
Gulph MilP is an interesting feature. The army remained 
on these grounds from December 13 to December 19, and 
it is curious to note that this fact has been passed over by 
most historians, or, if alluded to at all, spoken of in very 
brief mention. 

As a part of the story of the march to Valley Forge, it 
is well worthy of remembrance, and the permanent memo- 
rial which has been so generously presented to the Society 
by Mr. Joseph E. Gillingham, erected on ground courteously 
tendered by Mr. Henderson Supplee, the owner of the mill, 
has been fitly located.^ 

^ The Gulph Mill, erected in 1747, is situated in Upper Merion Town- 
ship, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, at the intersection of the Gulph 
Road with the Gulph Creek, which empties into the Schuylkill at West 
Conshohocken. It is about a mile and a half west of the river and six 
miles southeast of Valley Forge. What is understood as the Gulph is 
where the creek passes through the Gulph Hill, and to effect a passage 
has cleft it to the base. 

* The memorial consists of a large boulder, nine feet in height, taken 
from the adjacent hill and erected upon a substantial foundation. It is 
located at the intersection of Montgomery Avenue with the Gulph Eoad, 
about one hundred yards southeast of the mill. The entire cost of con- 
struction was defrayed by Joseph E. Gillingham, of Philadelphia, a 
friend of the Society. The stone, which weighs about twenty tons, bears 
the following inscription : " Gulph Mills. The main Continental 
Army commanded by General George Washington encamped in 


4 The Camp hy the Old Oulph Mill. 

If, in presenting some facts concerning this encampment, 
and the movements of the army which led to it, I am unable 
to throw around the subject any of the " pride, pomp, and 
circumstance of glorious war," I would beg you to con- 
sider that the month of December, 1777, was one of the 
gloomiest periods of the struggle for independence. 

Brandy wine and Germantown had been fought and lost ; 
Congress was a fugitive from its capital, and the capital in 
the hands of the enemy; the currency was rapidly depre- 
ciating ; supplies were rotting on the roads for lack of trans- 
portation; the commissariat in the direst confusion, and the 
army in the utmost straits. It was stern reality, not a chap- 
ter of romance. 

After the battle of Germantown (October 4, 1777) the 
Continental army fell back to the Perkiomen Creek, at 
Pennybacker's Mills, now Schwenksville, Montgomery 
County, the ground of a previous encampment.^ Notwith- 
standing this lengthened march of some twenty miles,^ — I 
suppose we may as well call it a retreat, — the troops do not 
seem to have been badly demoralized, as there exists good 
evidence to the contrary. The writer of a letter from this 
encampment to the Continental Journal, of Boston, under 
date of the 6th, and published in that paper of the 30th, 
states that " all the men were in good spirits and seem to 
grow fonder of fighting the more they have of it;" and 
again, General Knox, in writing to Artemas Ward on the 

this immediate vicinity from december 13 to december 19 1777 
Before going into winter quarters at Valley Forge. Erected 
BY THE Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution 1892. 
This Memorial to the Soldiers of the Eevolution stands on 


Mill erected in 1747." 

^ From September 26 to September 29, 1777. 

^ " After the army were all retreating, I expected they would have re- 
turned to their last encampment, about twelve or thirteen miles from the 
enemy at Germantown ; but the retreat was continued upwards of twenty 
miles ; so that all those men, who retired so far, this day marched up- 
wards of thirty miles without rest, besides being up all the preceding 
night without sleep. This step appeared to me not of such pressing 
necessity." — Pickering's Journal. 

The Camp by the Old Gulph Mil. 6 

7tb, uses the following language : " Our men are in the 
highest spirits, and ardently desire another trial. I know of 
no ill consequences that can follow the late action ; on the con- 
trary, we have gained considerable experience, and our army 
have a certain proof that the British troops are vulnerable." 

"While the army was resting at Pennybacker's Mills a 
considerable re-enforcement from Virginia was received, and 
on the morning of the 8th a move was made into Towa- 
mencin Township, the camping ground being in the vicinity 
of the Mennonite meeting-house (near Kulpsville), in the 
burial-ground of which rest the remains of General Francis 
Nash, of North Carolina, and other officers mortally wounded 
at Germantown. 

It was at this encampment that "Washington received a 
letter from the Rev. Jacob Duche, of Philadelphia (who had 
forsaken the patriot cause), which has assumed much greater 
historical importance than it is entitled to. In this letter 
the reverend gentleman, after censuring the motives of 
Congress and those of the leaders in the cause of freedom, 
urged the commander-in-chief to "represent to Congress 
the indispensable necessity of rescinding the hasty and ill- 
advised Declaration of Independency." 

Washington transmitted the letter to Congress, with this 
remark : " To this ridiculous, illiberal performance, I made 
a short reply, by desiring the bearer of it [Mrs. Ferguson, 
of Graeme Park] if she should hereafter by any accident 
meet with Mr. Duche, to tell him I should have returned it 
unopened if I had had any idea of the contents." 

Here the army was again re-enforced by some troops from 
Peekskill, under General Varnum, of Rhode Island, and 
on the 16th a further move was made to the southward, 
near " Methacton Hill," in "Worcester Township, the point 
from which the army had started on the evening of October 
3 to attack the enemy at Germantown. While here, the 
cheering news of the defeat and surrender of General Bur- 
goyne was received, and the general order issued in reference 
to it directed the chaplains of the army to prepare dis- 
courses suited to the occasion, 

6 The Camp by the Old Gulph Mill. 

On the 19th of October the British army entirely evacu- 
ated Gerraantown and retired nearer to Philadelphia, their 
new line of intrenchments extending from the upper ferry 
on the Schuylkill, at Callowhill Street, to Kensington on the 

On the 21st the army moved lower down into Whitpaine 
Township, within fifteen miles of the city. It was from 
this encampment that the following general order was issued 
on the 25th, announcing the successful defence of Fort 
Mercer on the Delaware by Colonel Christopher Greene, of 
Rhode Island : 

" The Gen^ again congratulates the Troops on the success 
of our arms. On Wednesday last [October 22] a Body of 
about 1200 Hessians under the command of Count Donop 
made an attack on Fort Mercer at Red Bank, and after an 
action of 40 Minutes were repulsed with great loss. Count 
Donop himself is wounded and taken prisoner together with 
his Brigade Major and about 100 other officers and soldiers, 
and about 100 were left on the Fields, and as they carried 
off many of their wounded their whole loss is probably at 
least 400 — our loss was trifling, the killed and wounded 
amounting onlj'^ to about 32." 

Count Donop died from his wounds three days after the 
battle. His last words, " I die the victim of my ambition 
and of the avarice of my sovereign," are painfully suggestive. 

The gallant defender of Red Bank, Christopher Greene, 
while on duty at Croton River (May 13, 1781), was basely 
murdered by a band of Westchester County Tories. 

On November 2 the march was made to Whitemarsh 
Township, twelve miles from the city, the encampment at 
this place being formed of two commanding hills, whose 
front and flanks were additionally secured by a strong ad- 
vanced post, the right wing resting upon the Wissahickon 

^ At the time of the battle of Germantown the British army was en- 
camped upon the general line of School-House Lane and Church Lane, 
crossing the town at the centre. The extreme left was at the mouth of 
the Wissahickon, and the right near Branchtown, on the Old York 
Koad. These lines were retained until the movement of October 19. 

The Camp by the Old Gulph Mill 7 

and the left upon Sandy Run. A redoubt known as Fort 
"Washington, on the right of the lines, is still well pre- 
served. Near this spot a memorial stone was erected by 
the Society two years ago.^ 

Here news was received of the evacuation of Fort Mifflin 
on the night of the 15th, followed by that of Fort Mercer 
on the 19th. The loss of these forts ended the defence of 
the Delaware, and the obstructions in the river being re- 
moved, the enemy had full possession of Philadelphia. 

Winter was now rapidly approaching, and it became 
necessary to determine whether any attempt should be 
made to recover possession of the city. Accordingly a 
council of the general officers was called to meet at head- 
quarters^ on the evening of the 24th of November, to con- 
sider the expediency of an attack on the enemy's lines, the 
arrival of some troops from the Korthern army and the 
absence of a large body of British under Lord Cornwallis, 
in New Jersey, being considered favorable circumstances. 

The council adjourned without coming to a decision, and 
the commander-in-chief, despatching a special messenger to 
General Greene, who was watching the movements of Corn- 
wallis in New Jersey, required of the other officers their 
written opinions. On comparing them, eleven were found 
against making the attack (Greene, Sullivan, Knox, De 
Kalb, Smallwood, Maxwell, Poor, Paterson, Irvine, Du- 
portail, and Armstrong) and four only (Stirling, "Wayne, 
Scott, and "Woodford) in its favor. 

^ The stone, a neat granite slab, stands on the southeasterly side of 
the Bethlehem Turnpike Road, about thirteen miles north of Philadel- 
phia. It bears the following inscription : " About 700 feet south of 
THIS stone is an American redoubt and the site of Howe's 
threatened attack Dec. 6, 1777. From here Washington's 


Pennsylvania Society of Sons or the Eevolution." 

^ The Whitemarsh head-quarters are still standing, about half a mile 
east from Camp Hill Station on the North Pennsylvania Railroad. 
The house, built of stone, is two and a half stories in height, eighty feet 
front, and twenty-seven feet in depth. Camp Hill, on which part of the 
left wing of the army was posted, is directly in the rear of the house. 

8 The Camp by the Old Gulph Mil. 

The letter of General Wayne, advising the attack, is so 
characteristic of the enterprise and dash of the man that 
we quote it entire. It is dated " Camp at White Marsh, 25th 
November, 1777. 

" After the most Dispassionate & Deliberate Consideration 
of the Question your Excellency was pleased to put to the 
Council of Gen^ Officers last evening — I am solemnly and 
clearly of Opinion; that the Credit of the Army under 
your Command — the safety of the Country — the Honor of 
the American Arms — the Approach of Winter that must 
in a few days force you from the field, and above all the 
Depreciation of the Currency of these States, point out the 
Immediate necessity of giving the enemy Battle. 

" Could they possibly be drawn from their lines it is a 
measure devoutly to be wished — but if that can not be 
effected It is my Opinion that your Excellency should march 
tomorrow morning and take post with this Army at the 
upper end of Germantown, and from thence Immediately 
detach a working party to throw up some Redoubts under 
the Direction of your Engineers — this Intelligence will 
reach the Enemy — they will Conclude that you Intend to 
make good your winter-quarters there — and however De- 
sirous they may be to dislodge you — they can't attempt it 
until they withdraw their Troops from the Jersey — this 
cannot be done in the course of a night. 

" By this manoeuvre you will be within striking distance — 
the Enemy will be Deceived by your working Party — and 
luled into security — your Troops will be fresh and ready to 
move that Night so as to arrive at the Enemies lines before 
daylight on this day morning — agreeable to the proposed plan 
of Attack — the outlines of which are good and may be 
Improved to Advantage and Crowned with Success.^ 

^ The plan of Lord Stirling and those in favor of the attack was, 
that it should be at different points, the main body to attack the lines to 
the north of the city, while Greene, embarking his men in boats at 
Dunk's Ferry (below Bristol), and passing down the Delaware, and 
Potter, with a body of Continentals and militia on the Schuylkill, should 
attack the eastern and western fronts. 

The Qam'p hy the Old Gulph Mill. 9 

" It has been objected by some Gentlemen that the attack 
is hazardous — that if we prevail it will be attended with 
great loss. I agree with the Gentlemen in their position. 

" But however hazardous the attempt and altho some loss 
is Certain — yet it is my Opinion that you will not be in a 
worse Situation — nor your arms in less Credit if you should 
meet with a misfortune than if you were to remain Inactive. 

" The eyes of all the World are fixed upon you — the 
Junction of the !N"orthern Army gives the Country and 
Congress some expectations that vigorous efforts will be 
made to Dislodge the Enemy and Oblige them to seek for 
Winter quarters in a less hostile place than Phil'a. 

"It's not in our power to command Success — but it is in 
our power to produce a Conviction to the World that we 
deserve it."^ 

On the morning of the 25th a careful examination of the 
defences on the north of the city was made by the com- 
mander-in-chief in person. The results of this reconnois- 
sance, taken from the west bank of the Schuylkill, is best 
exhibited in the following extract from a letter written on 
the 26th by John Laurens to his father Henry Laurens, 
President of Congress : 

" Our Commander-in-chief wishing ardently to gratify 
the public expectation by making an attack upon the 
enemy — yet preferring at the same time a loss of popu- 
larity to engaging in an enterprise which he could not 
justify to his own conscience and the more respectable part 
of his constituents, went yesterday to view the works. A 
clear sunshine favoured our observations : we saw redoubts 
of a very respectable profit, faced with plank, formidably 
fraised, and the intervals between them closed with an abat- 
tis unusually strong. General du Portail declared that in 
such works with five thousand men he would bid defiance 
to any force that should be brought against him." 

All intentions of making an attack were then abandoned, 

^ " 'Ti8 not in mortals to command success, 

But we'll do more, Sempronius ; we'll deserve it." 

Cato, Act I. Scene II. 

10 The Gamp hy the Old Gulph Mill. 

and the question of winter-quarters for the array came up 
for consideration. On this point the views of the general 
officers were widely separated, some inclining to Reading, 
others to Lancaster and Wilmington.^ It is said that 
Washington himself made the decision in favor of Valley 

On the evening of December 4, General Howe, with 
nearly all his army, marched out from Philadelphia, with 
the boasted purpose of driving the rebels beyond the 
mountains. His advance arrived at Chestnut Hill about 
daylight the following morning, in front of and a short 
distance from the right wing of the Americans. General 
James Irvine, with six hundred men from the Pennsylvania 
militia, was ordered to move against them. A smart skir- 
mish ensued, resulting in the retreat of the militia, leaving 
the general wounded in the hands of the British. 

On the 7th the enemy moved to Edge Hill, on the Ameri- 
can left, when their advanced and flanking parties were 
attacked by Colonel Daniel Morgan and his riflemen, and 
also by the Maryland militia, under Colonel Mordecai Gist. 
A sharp contest occurred, and the parties first attacked were 
driven in ; but Washington, being unwilling to come to an 
engagement in the open field, declined re-enforcements, 
and Gist and Morgan were compelled to give way. 

The enemy continued manoeuvring the entire day of Sun- 
day, the 7th, in the course of which Washington, expecting 
at any moment an attack, " rode through every brigade of 
his army, delivering in person his orders respecting the 
manner of receiving the enemy, exhorting his troops to rely 
principally on the bayonet, and encouraging them by the 

^ " If you can with any convenience let me see you to-day. I would 
be thankful for it. I am about fixing the winter cantonments of this 
army, and find so many and so capital objections to each mode proposed, 
that I am exceedingly embarrassed, not only by the advice given me, 
but in my own judgment, and should be very glad of your sentiments on 
the subject, without loss of time. In hopes of seeing you, I shall only 
add that from Reading to Lancaster inclusively, is the general senti- 
ment, whilst Wilmington and its vicinity has powerful advocates." — 
Washington to Joseph Heed, December 2, 1777. 

The Camp by the Old Gulph MiU. 11 

steady firmness of his countenance, as well as by his words, 
to a vigorous performance of their duty."^ 

The dispositions of the evening indicated an intention to 
attack on the ensuing morning; but Howe was afraid to 
assail Washington, and, failing in all attempts to draw him 
out, gave up the design, and on the afternoon of Mon- 
day, the 8th, changed front, and by two or three routes 
marched back to the city, burning a number of houses by 
the way. 

"Washington, on receiving intelligence of Howe's re- 
treat, said : ' Better would it have been for Sir William 
Howe to have fought without victory than thus to declare 
his inability.' " ^ 

This virtually closed the campaign of 1777, and early on 
the morning of Thursday, the 11th of December, the army 
of eleven thousand men, many of them unfit for duty, set 
out for winter-quarters,' moving up the Skippack Road to 
the Broad-Axe Tavern, and from thence five miles west- 
ward to the Schuylkill, the intention being for the main 
body to cross at Matson's Ford, now Conshohocken, where 
a bridge had already been laid. It was also arranged that 
a portion of the troops should cross the river at Swede's 
Ford, some three miles higher up the stream. 

When the first division and a part of the second had 
pkssed over the bridge at Matson's Ford, a body of British, 
three thousand strong, under Lord Cornwallis, was discov- 
ered stationed on the high ground on both sides of the road 
leading from the river and along the Gulph Creek. This 
forced the return of those who had crossed, and, after ren- 
dering the bridge impassable, the army was ordered to 

1 Marshall's " Washington," Vol. III. p. 319. 

* Lee's " Memoirs," Vol. I. p. 45. 

' "December 11.— At 3 A.M. we struck tents, passed White Marsh 
Church, and on to the upper bridge over the Schuylkill, when the enemy 
having crossed at the Middle Ferry [Market Street], attacked a party of 
Militia under Gen. Potter. The loss was inconsiderable on both sides. 
We then turned W.N.W. and proceeded thro' Hickorytown and en- 
camped near Swedes Ford." — Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, 
Pennsylvania Magazine, Vol. XVI. p. 156. 


12 The Camp by the Old Gulph Mill. 

Swede's Ford, now Norristown, where it encamped for the 
night. The British, who were on a foraging expedition, 
were met in their advance by General James Potter, with 
part of the Pennsylvania militia, who behaved with bravery 
and gave them every possible opposition till he was obliged 
to retreat from superior numbers. 

General Potter's report of his opposition to this raid, made 
to Thomas Wharton, President of the Supreme Executive 
Council of Pennsylvania, if not very good English, is cer- 
tainly quite graphic : 

"Last Thursday [December 11] the enemy march out 
of the City with a desine to Furridge ; but it was ITessecerey 
to drive me out of the way ; my advanced picquet fired on 
them at the Bridge [Market Street] ; another party of one 
Hundred attacted them at the Black Hors.^ I was en- 
camped on Charles Thomson's place,^ where I staeconed 
two Regraents who attacted the enemy with viger. On the 
next Hill, I staeconed three Pegments, letting the first line 
know, that when they were over powered, the must Retreat 
and form behind the sacond line, and in that manner we 
formed and Retreated for four miles ; and on every Hill we 
disputed the matter with them. My people Behaved well, 
espealy three Regements, Commanded by the Co? Cham- 
bers, Murrey and Leacey. His Excellencey Returned us 
thanks in public orders;^ — But the cumplement would 
have Been mutch more substantale had the Valant Generil 
Solovan [Sullivan] Covered my Retreat with two Devissions 
of the Army, he had in my Reare ; the front of them was 

^ The Black Horse Tavern was on the old Lancaster Road, about five 
miles northwest of Philadelphia. 

^ Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress. The Thomson place, 
known as " Harriton," was on the Old Gulph Road, about twelve miles 
from Philadelphia and three miles from the Gulph Mill. The mansion- 
house is still standing. 

' " The Commander-in-Chief, with great pleasure, expresses his ap- 
probation of the behavior of the Pennsylvania Militia yesterday, under 
General Potter, on the vigorous opposition they made to a body of the 
enemy on the other side of the Schuylkill." — Orderly- Book, December 
12, 1777. 

The Camp by the Old Gulph MiU. 13 

about one half mile in my Rear, but he gave orders for 
them to Retreat and join the army who were on the other 
side of the Schuylkill, about one mile and a Half from me ; 
thus the enemy Got leave to plunder the Countrey, which 
they have dun without parsiality or favour to any, leaving 
none of the Nessecereys of life Behind them that the 
conveniantly could Carry or destroy . . . His Excellancey 
was not with the Army when this unlucky neglact hapned; 
the army was on there march, and he had not come from 
his Quarters at Whit marsh." ^ 

Lord Cornwallis returned to Philadelphia the following 

Want of provisions^ prevented any movement of the 
troops until the evening of the 12th, when at sunset the 
march was commenced, some crossing the river on a bridge 
of wagons at the ford and others at a raft bridge below. 
Early on the morning of the 13th of December the army 
arrived at the Gulph,^ the depressing aspect of which 
prompted the Connecticut surgeon, Albigence Waldo, to 
record in his journal entry of that day that the place was 
well named, " for this Gulph seems well adapted by its 
situation to keep us from the pleasure and enjoyments of 
this world, or being conversant with any body in it."* 

During the whole course of the war but few marches 
may be compared with this, short as it was, for hardship, 
privation, and almost despair. Yet, half starved, half naked 

^ Pennsylvania Archives, Vol. VI. p. 97. 

' " The next morning [December 12] the want of provisions — I could 
weep tears of blood when I say it — the want of provisions render'd it 
impossible to march till the evening of that day." — John Laurens to 
Henry Laurens, December 23, 1777. 

* "December 12. — At 6 p.m. we marched to the bridge [made of 
wagons], which we crossed in Indian file, and at 3 a.m. encamped near 
the Gulph, where we remained without tents or blankets in the midst of 
a severe snow storm." — Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael. 

* Albigence Waldo was a regimental surgeon in the brigade of Gen- 
eral Jedediah Huntington, of Connecticut. His diary from November 
10, 1777, to January 15, 1778, from which we quote, is published in the 
fifth volume of the Historical Magazine. 

14 The Camjp hy the Old Gulph MIL 

as they were, their footsteps leaving tracks of blood,^ the 
Soldiers of the Revolution bore up against all, and the Sons 
of the Revolution, in honoring their memories by the simple 
services of to-day, honor themselves. 

It was cold, stormy weather, beginning with snow on the 
night of the 12th and ending with rain on the 16th, when for 
the first time the tents were pitched^ and some little degree 
of comfort secured for the men, whose miserable condition is 
described by Dr. Waldo : " There comes a soldier — His bare 
feet are seen thro' his worn out shoes — his legs nearly naked 
from the tatter'd remains of an only pair of stockings — his 
Breeches not sufficient to cover his Nakedness — his shirt hang- 
ing in strings — his hair dishevell'd — his face meagre — his 
whole appearance pictures a person forsaken & discouraged," 

Dismal as were the days, unpromising as was the future, 
we find the commander-in-chief still hopeful, still coura- 
geous, as he issues his order to the army on the 17th, wherein, 
after expressing his thanks to the officers and soldiers for 
the fortitude and patience with which they had sustained 
the fatigue of the campaign, he adds, " Although in some 
instances we unfortunately failed ; yet upon the whole 
Heaven hath smiled upon our arms and crowned them with 
signal success; and we may upon the best grounds con- 
clude, that, by a spirited continuance of the measures neces- 
sary for our defence, we shall finally obtain the end of our 
warfare. Independence, Liberty and Peace." 

Brave words, well worthy of such a commander and such 

"While some of the letters written by Washington during 

^"December 14. — It is amazing to see the spirit of the soldiers when 
destitute of shoes and stockings marching cold nights and mornings, 
leaving blood in their foot-steps ! yet notwithstanding, the fighting dis- 
position of the soldiers is great." — Letter from the army, Continental Jour- 
nal, January 15, 1778. 

'^"December 16i!A.— Cold Rainy Day — Baggage ordered over the 
Gulph, of our Division, which were to march at Ten— but the baggage 
was order'd back and for the first time since we have been here the 
Tents were pitch'd to keep the men more comfortable." — Diary of Albi- 
gence Waldo. 

The Camp by the Old Gulph Mil 15 

this encampment are dated "Head Quarters Gulf Mill," 
others again are from " Near the Gulph," and one to the 
Board of War is dated " Head Quarters Gulf Creek, 14 Dec. 
1777." In the absence of any positive information on the 
subject, and with the knowledge that the mill merely marked 
the locality, it is, therefore, impossible to name with any ac- 
curacy the premises occupied by the commander-in-chief as 
head-quarters. The army was posted on the high grounds 
on both sides of the Gulph, and the tradition which points 
to a house which stood about one mile north of the mill and 
beyond the creek may be entitled to some consideration. It 
was at the time the residence of Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac 
Hughes, of the Pennsylvania militia. The house, a sub- 
stantial stone building, was taken down some years ago. 

An entry in the orderly-book of General Muhlenberg, 
directing " The Guards to Parade at the Gulph Mill at 3 
o'clock" on the afternoon of December 13, is thought by 
some to indicate that head-quarters were in the immediate 
vicinity of the mill. If such is the case, the house which 
stands on the opposite side of the road may be entitled to 
the distinction. This house, considerably increased in size 
and importance, is now owned and occupied by Henderson 
Supplee, the proprietor of the Gulph Mill. 

Apart from the usual routine of an army at rest, the inci- 
dents connected with this encampment which are known to 
us are few. We are told that on one occasion a party of the 
enemy, to the number of forty-five, was surprised and made 
prisoners,^ but beyond this there is little to note. When 
the army lay at Valley Forge, however, the Gulph was an 
important post, and a characteristic anecdote of Aaron Burr 
in connection with it, related by his biographer, Matthew 
L. Davis, is of sufficient interest to repeat.^ 

^ "December 17. — We have been for several days past posted on the 
mountains near the gulph mill, and yesterday a party of the enemy, to 
the number of forty five were surprised and made prisoners." — Letter 
from the army, Continental Journal, January 22, 1778. 

* Colonel Burr joined the main army at Whitemarsh in November. 
He was at this time in the twenty-second year of his age. 

16 The Camp by the Old Gulph MUl. 

It appears from this story that the militia stationed to 
guard the pass at the Gulph were continually sending false 
alarms to camp, which obliged the officers to get the troops 
under arms and frequently to keep them on the alert during 
the whole night. These alarms, it was soon found, arose 
from the want of a proper system of observation and from 
a general looseness of discipline in the corps. General 
McDougall, who well knew the quality of Colonel Burr as a 
soldier, recommended the commander-in-chief to give him 
the command of the post. 

This was done, which resulted in the introduction of a 
system of such rigorous discipline that mutiny was threat- 
ened and the death of the colonel resolved upon. This 
came to the knowledge of Burr, and on the evening decided 
upon (every cartridge having been previously drawn from 
the muskets) the detachment was ordered to parade. When 
in line, one of the men stepped from the ranks and levelled 
his musket at him, whereupon Burr raised his sword and 
struck the arm of the mutineer above the elbow, nearly 
severing it from his body. In a few minutes the corps was 
dismissed, the arm of the mutineer was next day amputated, 
and no more was heard of the mutiny. 

General Wayne, in writing from this encampment to a 
friend, requesting him to apply to Congress in his behalf 
for a short leave of absence, gives as his reasons ill health, a 
continued service of twenty-three months, and a desire to 
attend to his private affairs. Three very good pleas for such 
an indulgence, it being the first, as he says, that he had ever 
asked. The letter, dated " Camp at the Gulf 19th Deer. 
1777," reads thus : 

" After strugling with a stubron cold for months with a 
pain in my breast occasioned by a fall at Germantown — the 
Caitiff has taken post in my Lungs and throat — and unless 
I am permitted to change my Ground I dread the Conse- 
quence. I have not Interest sufficient with His Excellency 
to Obtain leave of Absence long enough to effect a Radical 
cure. My physicians advise me to go to some Inland town 
or place when I can be properly attended and procure a 

The Camp by the Old Gulph Mill. 17 

suitable Regimen. I have now been on constant duty for 
23 months, sixteen of which I served in Canada and Ticon- 
deroga, the Remainder with his Excellency during which 
period I have never had one single moment's respite. My 
private Interest is in a suffering Condition, all the amts of 
Money's Reed and Expenditures since then remain unset- 
tled — so that if any misfortune should happen me — there is 
no person who could liquidate them. 

" These considerations together with my state of Health 
induces me to request you to lay my case before Congress 
and endeavour to obtain leave of Absence for me for five or 
six weeks. I am confident that when they refiect on the 
length of time I have served them together with the hard 
duty I have underwent they will not hesitate to grant me 
this Indulgence it being the first I ever asked." 

It does not appear that the leave of absence was obtained ; 
at all events, we know that Wayne was still on duty at 
Lancaster and York in January, looking to a supply of 
clothing for the Pennsylvania troops. 

On the 18th of December, a day set apart by Congress for 
thanksgiving and prayer, the troops remained in their quar- 
ters, and the chaplains performed service with their several 
corps and brigades. On this day, in general orders, the com- 
mander-in-chief gave explicit directions for constructing the 
huts for winter-quarters. 

Although it has generally been stated that the establish- 
ment of winter-quarters at Valley Forge was fully decided 
upon at Whitemarsh, yet it seems that even when the army 
lay on these hills the matter was still under consideration. 
Timothy Pickering, in a letter to Mrs. Pickering, under 
date of December 13, wrote, " The great difficulty is to fix 
a proper station for winter quarters. iNothing else prevents 
our going into them ... it is a point not absolutely deter- 
mined." And, two days later, John Laurens, writing to 
the President of Congress, says, " The army cross'd the 
Schuylkill on the 13th and has remained encamped on the 
heights on this side. Our truly republican general has de- 
clared to his officers that he will set the example of passing 

18 The Camp hy the Old Gulph Mill 

the winter in a hut himself. The precise position is not yet 
fixed upon in which our huts are to be constructed ; it will 
probably be determined to day ; it must be in such a situa- 
tion as to admit of a bridge of communication over the 
Schuylkill for the protection of the country we have just 

This uncertainty, which does not seem to have been re- 
moved until the 17th of the month, will account for the 
lengthened period of the encampment at the Gulph, and it 
may not be too much to say that in all probability this 
locality was also taken into consideration. 

At ten o'clock on Friday morning, December 19, the 
army marched from hence to Valley Forge, six miles to the 

We are standing on historic soil. Yonder hills, one hun- 
dred and sixteen years ago, witnessed the privations and 
sufierings of a band of heroes, — the soldiers of the Revolu- 
tion. The old Gulph Mill, its walls grim and gray with 
age, still guards the spot, a faithful sentinel. Here have 
passed and repassed men whose names are history itself, 
whose deeds are a cherished inheritance. Washington, 
modest as virtuous ; Greene, wise as brave ; Knox, gallant 
as true ; Lafayette, the friend of America ; Sullivan, Stir- 
ling, De Kalb, Muhlenberg, Maxwell, Huntington, and 
Wayne ! Anthony Wayne ! Pennsylvania's soldier and 

These grounds were the threshold to Valley Forge, and 
the story of that winter — a story of endurance, forbearance, 
and patriotism which will never grow old — had its begin- 
ning here, at the six days' encampment by the old Gulph 

The memorial which we dedicate to-day in remembrance 
of this encampment — rough, unchiselled, nature's monument 
— is a fit emblem of the dreary days of December, 1777. 

^ The movements of the army which have been traced in this paper 
were entirely in what was then Philadelphia County, now (since 1784) 
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the townships or districts mentioned 
being the same as at present.